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  • January 4, 2018

Tolerance is Most Meaningful When it’s Mutual- Supreme Court Arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop

The developing law concerning religious freedom and same sex marriage was argued before the United States Supreme Court on December 5, 2017 in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  The case concerns Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker and the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, which he opened in 1993.  In 2012, David Mullins and Charlie Craig, two gay men intending to get married, came into his bakery and asked him to design a cake for their wedding.  Mr. Phillips declined, based on his Christian faith and his religious conviction that marriage was between a man and…

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  • November 28, 2017

Avoiding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Recent news stories have shed a brighter light on the very real problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Failing to properly address sexual harassment creates an unsafe workplace and exposes the employer to substantial liability. There is nothing new about this issue. Liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act has existed for more than thirty years.  These recent headlines simply speak to the unfortunate reality that too many workplaces fail to properly address the problem.  It is imperative that employers acquire the tools needed to protect their employees and themselves.      Sexual harassment encompasses a wide…

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  • October 3, 2017

Can Parties to a Maryland Contract Shorten the Limitations Period? It Depends…

The short answer to the question of whether parties to a contract can legally shorten the statute of limitations is yes.  However, three factors must be met before a shortened statute of limitations can be enforced: 1) no controlling statute exists to the contrary; 2) the provision is not the result of fraud, duress, or misrepresentation; and 3) the provision is reasonable.   In its recent opinion, Richard and Daphne Ceccone v. Carroll Home Service, LLC, filed July 28, 2017, the Court of Appeals upheld the Court of Special Appeals' decision in College of Notre Dame of Maryland, Inc. v.…

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  • August 24, 2017

REVISITING WHEN AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK IS A CONTRACT UNDER MARYLAND LAW

Is your employee handbook a contract? Thirty years ago, Maryland’s courts ruled that a jury had to decide that question, unless the handbook contained a “clear and conspicuous” disclaimer stating that it was not a contract.  Since then, most Maryland employers have wisely introduced disclaimer language to avoid litigation seeking damages because something in the handbook was not followed exactly as written.  A recent Maryland case revisits this question and identifies a new problem created, in part, by our societal move into the digital age. James Tucker was an employee of the Johns Hopkins University (“the University”). He was notified…

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  • July 13, 2017

The Trinity Lutheran Decision: The Supreme Court Expands Free Exercise Rights

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution has two provisions concerning religion: one prohibiting the government from establishing any religion; and the other guaranteeing each individual the free exercise of religion. On June 26, 2017, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, the leading case this term on First Amendment religious liberty. The majority described its opinion as the logical and necessary outcome, compelled by the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion and by historical precedent. The dissent characterized the case as a dramatic break with precedent, and a dangerous step towards…

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  • July 5, 2017

Jocelyn Szymanowski Named a Principal of the Firm

Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew, P.A. is pleased to announce that Jocelyn S. Szymanowski has become a shareholder in the firm. Ms. Szymanowski, named a 2015 Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine and Baltimore Magazine, began practicing law in 2005. She served as the Chair of the Young Lawyers Division of the Bar Association of Baltimore City for the 2015 – 2016 bar year, and sits on the Board of Governors for the Maryland State Bar Association. Ms. Szymanowski has a general practice, with a concentration in taxation, charitable organizations, business, banking and real estate.  She received her Bachelor of Science…

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  • June 19, 2017

A Party Must Produce Documents in His/Her Control Even if Not in His/Her Possession

Under the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure, is it acceptable for a party to produce only a portion of the documents requested in discovery because those are all of the documents in his/her possession? Current case law in Maryland says no. It is common practice as part of discovery to propound Requests for Production of Documents on an opposing party. It has also become quite common for the responding party to produce only those documents within his/her possession, claiming no further obligation to obtain and produce others. Such is not the case in Maryland. The presiding case on this issue…

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  • May 26, 2017

Supreme Court Considers Expanding Religious Liberties

The United States Supreme Court seems primed to decide a case that could dramatically alter long-standing jurisprudence concerning the constitutional prohibition against the establishment of religion.   It heard arguments in April 2017 in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, when the questions and comments from the Justices seemed to favor a major decision in favor of religious freedom. Trinity Lutheran Church is in Columbia, Missouri.  It operates a licensed preschool and daycare center on church premises.  The preschool and daycare have an open admission policy, meaning that there is no preference shown based on a family’s religion.  However, the Church sees the…

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  • May 15, 2017

Maryland Wiretapping Law vs. Workers’ Rights Under the NLRA

With the omnipresent smartphone making its way into the workplace, employers have tried to address some of the concerns that come along with such devices. Secretly recording the conversations of others with a cell phone can be very easy given today’s discrete technology. Predictably, many employers would (and do) take issue with such activity.  Moreover, such activity is illegal under Maryland law.  On the other hand, one federal agency—the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “the Board”)—asserts that employees should have the right to secretly record others as an exercise of their rights in the workplace.  This divergence between federal…

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  • March 15, 2017

The Mechanism for—and Importance of—Service on Defunct Maryland LLCs in Construction Cases

When defending a general contractor in a construction litigation, you may need to effectuate proper service of a cross-claim or third-party complaint on a potentially responsible subcontractor.  What are your options if the subcontractor is a forfeited limited liability company (“LLC”)? Maryland law treats defunct corporations in a different manner than defunct LLCs.  While a forfeited corporation loses all powers conferred by law[1], a forfeited LLC loses only the right to do business in the State and the right to the use of its name.[2]  The Maryland statute “Contracts with forfeited LLC” states: The forfeiture of the right to do…

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